|Should Light Rail be Built on North Tryon Street?
Consultants have recommended light rail on North Tryon St. or a busway as the best choice to serve the Northeast corridor, which includes the University area. They recommend tracks in the middle of North Tryon as one alternative, with light rail having an exclusive right-of-way. Another alternative would have light rail sharing the street with cars in typical streetcar fashion.
We have not seen all the details of this proposal but from what has been revealed we have some reservations about this proposal. While running light rail down Tryon St. may have some advantages, it also has many disadvantages. Lets take a look at both.
Jesse Reese, chairman of the transportation improvements committee of the Tryon North Development Corp. was quoted as saying they "want a system that will move people quickly. We dont want an antiquated system." Yet it would seem to us at this juncture, without having seen all of the details of this proposal, that this is what we might end up with! A light rail line on a long, slow trip down North Tryon St. will do little to speed up the service that it replaces. After the initial novelty wears off some may even find it antiquated. Light rail, impeded by cross traffic at best choked by automobile traffic at worst will be unable to perform the advantages that are an inherent part of its character when built properly.
We understand that the people on North Tryon are trying to bring about development and we appreciate their concern that they are not left out of the picture when the Northeast corridor is developed. However, a streetcar line all the way up North Tryon is not going to serve this corridor well, and even more important, it will not be cost effective. Therefore, we have not changed our viewpoint that the Northeast corridor would be better built up North Graham, sharing R-O-W with the North corridor regional rail if possible, but more likely built parallel to it. At Derita it would use the old IBM rail spur R-O-W through the University Research Park and UNCC, terminating at a future satellite train station in the vicinity of NC 49 and I-485.
What then needs to be done for the North Tryon area? Certainly better transit and street improvements for this area should be a part of any plan for the Northeast corridor. Well leave this subject for a future article. Finally, like the other corridors being studied, whatever is ultimately done as far as transit is concerned, North Tryon must be part of an overall land-use policy and not an "if we build it they will come" approach.